I specialize in early modern Japanese culture and language, with a particular focus on the history of genders/sexualities and history of medicine.
I completed a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in Japanese Studies at the University of Vienna, with periods of study at Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice and Meiji University in Tokyo. My Master’s thesis focused on the depiction of male same-sex desire in comic literature of the Edo period. This was followed by a PhD in Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge. My PhD thesis Sexual Healing. Sexuality, Health and the Body in Early Modern Japan (1600-1868), which I am currently preparing for publication with Cambridge University Press, explored medical views of sex as a health and disease concept in the Edo period. Following an appointment as visiting lecturer in pre-modern Japanese literature and language at Yale University, I joined the University of Ghent in July 2017 to work on a new BOF-funded research project on the imagination of the medical body in early modern Japan, with a particular focus on late 18th- and early 19th-century popular fiction and prints.
I am also interested in material aspects of early modern books, historical scripts and language styles (bungo, kanbun, kuzushiji) and seek to explore new pathways in Digital Humanities to highlight features that are less suited to conventional publication formats. My online project Blood, Tears and Samurai Love: Reading a Treasure from Yale's Beinecke Library, which has been carried out in collaboration with resource specialists and students from Yale University, aims to produce a critical online edition of an early 18th-century manuscript recently acquired by Yale's Beinecke Library https://tenthousandrooms.yale.edu/project/blood-tears-and-samurai-love-reading-treasure-yales-beinecke-collection.
I am also part of the collaborative project Timing Day and Night: ‘Timescapes’ in Pre-modern Japan, which explores time as a set of social practices prior to the introduction of the Western time system (https://www.ames.cam.ac.uk/research/project/timing-day-and-night-timescapes-premodern-japan). In April 2015, I convened the international conference Timing Day and Night at the University of Cambridge (for select papers see the special issue of Kronoscope 17/1 https://brill.com/view/journals/kron/17/1/kron.17.issue-1.xml). In September 2016, I was awarded a JSPS Fellowship at Tokyo University to pursue further research for this project in Japan.
Beyond this, my academic and teaching interests extend to modern and contemporary Japan. I have co-edited a volume on genders and sexualities in contemporary Japan titled Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy: Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge (LIT 2013) https://www.ames.cam.ac.uk/publications/books/manga-girl-seeks-herbivore-boy) and more recently a second volume on contemporary masculinities titled Cool Japanese Men: Studying New Masculinities at Cambridge (LIT 2017) https://www.ames.cam.ac.uk/publications/books/cool-japanese-men-studying-new-masculinities-cambridge. A third and final volume on contemporary femininities is currently in preparation.
I supervise graduate students who wish to work on subjects relating to Japanese genders and sexualities, Edo-period history and literature.
Education and Research
Talks and Conference Papers
Classical Japanese Text and Context 1: THE HEALTHY BODY IN EARLY MODERN JAPAN
This master’s-level course is intended to build proficiency in reading specialized texts in classical Japanese centred around the theme of health and the body in Edo Japan; it also enables students to place the primary sources within the context of contemporary medical culture and society. Students will be able to familiarize themselves with a broad variety of early modern material, ranging from health cultivation manuals such as Kaibara Ekiken’s best-selling Yōjōkun (1713) to didactic works for women, popular fiction, medical advertisements and colourful woodblock ‘measles’ prints that provided health advice during epidemics (hashika-e). Emphasis is placed on the material aspects of the texts in their original format in order to lay the foundation for more in-depth competency and independent research. Based on their reading of primary and secondary texts on topics such as the female body, doctors in popular fiction and syphilis treatments, students will have the opportunity to reflect on how the body, health and disease need to be understood as cultural categories that have different meanings across time.
Classical Japanese Text and Context 2: JAPAN KNOWLEDGE: FROM PRINTED BOOKS TO THE DIGITAL AGE
This master-level course is centred on books as media in Japan, with a particular focus on the printed book, which represented a veritable revolution in the way information was disseminated in early modern Japan. We will discuss the history, social background and materiality of the book in Japan’s pre-Meiji past, as well as its future in a digital age. A major component of the course will be exploring the many exciting opportunities that Digital Humanities provide for accessing, studying and editing historical Japanese texts in novel formats; this will include an interactive demonstration of new character recognition software for historical scripts (kuzushiji) and an introduction to the most important digital tools (databases, repositories etc.) for early modern Japanese textual scholarship. Students will be able to gain hands-on experience of new developments in the field by creating their own digital edition of an Edo-period book on the Ten Thousand Rooms platform. A field trip to the Brussels Museum of History and Art, which holds a large collection of early modern Japanese prints and books, will be a unique chance for students to get a close-up look at premodern materials from a broad variety of genres.
Further courses: Modern Japanese Society (co-taught)
Current MA students
Xantippe Melaerts (Edo-period ghost stories/kaidan)
Mathias Boone (Edo-period travel and meisho zue)
Lennert DeCoster (Reclusivity and Edo-period bunjin culture)
Hams Dosuky (Sexualization of young girls in anime culture)
Current PhD students
Yoshihiro Man’i (Early Modern Health Cultivation and Neo-Confucian Philosophy), co-supervisor